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Op-Ed: Texas Bills Would Help 'Protect the Patient-Provider Relationship'

Op-Ed: Texas Bills Would Help 'Protect the Patient-Provider Relationship'

May 1, 2015 — Two measures introduced in Texas "would protect the patient-provider relationship from inappropriate political interference in personal decisions that should be [made] by women and their trained health care providers," family physician Bich-May Nguyen writes in a Houston Chronicle opinion piece.

Nguyen explains that lawmakers increasingly are "trying to dictate how my fellow physicians and I care for our patients, using ideology to trump evidence, medical ethics, and the best interests of women." However, she writes that two proposed bills -- the "'You Can't Force a Doctor to Lie'" Act (HB 1210) and Marlise's Law (HB 3183) -- would help fix such interference and ensure that patients can "trust that their care is high-quality and based on their circumstances and preferences, not politics."

HB 1210 Would Protect Providers, Patients

Nguyen writes that HB 1210 could help protect providers and patients by addressing certain state restrictions on abortion.

Specifically, she notes that although abortion "has a 99 percent safety record," it "is singled out for medically unnecessary restrictions." For example, a woman seeking medication abortion is required to make four trips to her physician. According to Nguyen, the patient goes first to receive "state-mandated 'counseling' that includes information that is patently false, and a state-mandated ultrasound," then "return[s] for second and third visits to receive the medication she needs, even though research shows, and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends, that it be taken at home." The fourth visit is for follow-up, Nguyen adds.

Nguyen expresses concern that "poor women in rural Texas ... have to travel hundreds of miles -- sometimes without a car or money for gas or bus fares -- and take time off work to make these unnecessary trips."

She contends that by adopting HB 1210, Texas would set patients by "a standard that says Texas will not force health care providers to choose between their medical training and ethical obligations versus politically motivated laws."

Marlise's Law Would Protect Pregnant Women

Meanwhile, Nguyen also discusses the "tragic" case of Marlise Muñoz, who was kept on mechanical support at a Texas hospital against her family's wishes "simply because she was 14 weeks pregnant." She adds, "No family should have to endure the trauma of losing a loved one so cruelly compounded by state interference in a personal health care decision."

She explains that Marlise's Law would "remov[e] the pregnancy exception to end-of-life directives and allow pregnant women and their family the right to make end-of-life decisions."

According to Nguyen, HB 1210 and HB 3183 both would help rebut the trend of "the Texas Legislature insert[ing] politics into the exam room" and allow "providers ... to be able to use their professional judgment and give the best possible care without running afoul of the law" (Nguyen, Houston Chronicle, 4/29).